Reading is one of the most fantastico activities and a great pastime. Story telling is an art and some writers are the true magicians with their par excellent writings. This article is about one of the most favourite Hindi Writers of all time: Munshi Premchand.
Munshi Premchand, as we know him, was born as Dhanpat Rai Srivastav. His earlier writings were penned under the name of ‘Nawab Rai’ and later he switched to ‘Prem Chand’ as his pen name. He is famously quoted as the ‘Emperor among Novelists’. He is Shakespeare of Hindi Literature. He has written many short stories and novels and enriched both Hindi and Urdu literature.
He was one of the first hindi writers who voiced the concerns of discriminated sections of society. His writings are a beautiful description of the social surroundings that existed during British Period. He wrote detailed narratives about gender discrimination, caste hierarchies, poverty and corruption. In this article, I will try to elaborate upon one of his most impactful writings which I personally admire for their literary excellence.
Godaan is one of the greatest novels of Modern Indian Literature. It eloquently describes the socio-economic conditions that existed during British days. The story is set in the area around Lucknow in the pre-independence Uttar Pradesh. Main protagonist of the story, Hori Ram is a poor farmer who is a good man but heavily indebted. Such debts in those days were a vicious circle of indebtedness with no possibility of coming out of it. Hori had accepted the social order and hence always kept interests of the local Landowner Rai Sahib above that of his family.
His wife, Dhaniya, was more practical in approach and was a big support to him. The title ‘Godaan’ refers to gifting a cow to a Brahmin by a Hindu at the time of death. Hori always desired to have a cow like many other peasants. This desire gets fulfilled in the very beginning of the book but this lasted only for a short while.
Indebtedness was one of the central problems of the peasants living in the village. Precisely for that reason, ‘Godaan’ focuses considerably on the money-lending practice. The novel presents the unavailability of small loans at proper conditions as one of the biggest social problems which results in the widespread poverty and miserable lives of the peasants.
It is fundamentally a political novel though it has no British colonial presence despite its adherence to the same timeline. Premchand’s depiction of individuals, their problems and consequential events is truly phenomenal. To sum it up, it is a very engaging read and I strongly suggest it to anyone who wishes to read about social surroundings of pre-independence India.
Notably, this landmark novel has also been adapted into a motion picture by the same name starring Raj Kumar and Kamini Kaushal. It is also highly recommended, though reading a book is an entirely different and enriching experience which cannot be expressed in words.
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